Christie Hupman started swimming in a year-round program as a third-grader and didn't stop until she finished her undergraduate degree.
Think about all those years of dedication, the amount of time and energy she put into the demanding sport. The long practices at SwimAtlanta. The two-a-day practices with the University of Georgia's swim team. The weightlifting and other dry-land exercises.
When she retired from competitive swimming in 2006, Hupman suddenly had a large block of time to fill on her daily schedule. Not to worry, a new challenge was on deck.
Following a magna cum laude graduation with high honors from UGA, the Brookwood grad enrolled at the Medical College of Georgia, where she is on track to graduate in 2011.
"I love (med school). I absolutely love it," said Hupman, a two-time Daily Post and state swimmer of the year at Brookwood. "It's a lot of studying, but it's certainly doable. When you love what you're learning, it's easier. Studying has taken the place of what swimming was. I had to sort of get my brain in shape, like I got my body in shape for swimming.
"I'm strangely almost excited for school to start (in the fall) because I really do like it so much."
Hupman's love affair with medicine dates back almost as long as her affinity for swimming. Science class dissections, including a sheep's heart, in sixth grade piqued her interest.
Her desire to be a doctor never waned, which led to her majoring in biology and Spanish at UGA. When her classroom work at MCG is done, she faces the standard years of rotations and residency. The final goal of becoming a doctor is thrilling, but Hupman said she is also enjoying the sometimes tough journey through med school.
The 24-year-old already has traveled frequently, beginning with a UGA trip to study medical Spanish at a Red Cross clinic in Mexico. She went to Guanajuato, Mexico, last semester to take Spanish classes and to aid a women's rights organization, then spent much of this summer in Peru.
While in Peru for five weeks, Hupman worked with a women's clinic on cervical cancer screenings while doing a research project on the impact of cervical cancer prevention educational videos.
"These women don't have much," Hupman said of the patients in Peru. "They have no running water, no food on the table, no health care."
The trip only intensified her desire to work in the medical field, to put in the necessary time that once was dominated by swimming.
Those efforts led Hupman to a decorated high school swimming career, including four straight state championships in the 50 freestyle and seven individual titles overall. She also helped the Broncos to team state championships her final two seasons.
"We had so much fun at the county meet, but especially high school state," Hupman said. "High school state was so much fun. Getting dressed up and parents decorating our lockers, the team cheering you on. It was just a lot of relaxed fun, a fun team atmosphere."
Hupman swam four seasons at UGA, winning an NCAA team title in 2005 and an SEC title in 2006. She gave up competitive swimming after her UGA career, but still swims occasionally for fun and also rides her bike.
She now leaves the high-level swimming to her younger siblings, including brother Dean, who swims at Western Kentucky, and sister Andrea, who just finished an All-American career at Northwestern.
Hupman returned from Peru this summer just in time to see Andrea swim three events at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
"That was incredible," Hupman said of her sister's time at trials. "It was so much fun, especially when she made the semifinals. We had a little eruption of cheers when we saw her name on the scoreboard."
While her name won't be on swimming scoreboards anymore, Hupman doesn't mind too much. She's using the extra time to transition from Christie Hupman, swimmer to Christie Hupman, M.D.
"Catching up with ..." is a series that profiles former Gwinnett County athletes and their lives beyond high school competition. This feature will run on Saturdays throughout the summer. If you have suggestions about former standouts, send them to email@example.com.
SideBar: The Hupman File
· Name: Christie Hupman
· Age: 24
· Current job: Medical student at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta
· Education: Graduated from Brookwood High School in 2002; graduated magna cum laude with high honors from the University of Georgia in 2007
· Background: Two-time Daily Post and Georgia High School Swimmer of the Year; four-time state high school champion in the 50 freestyle, only the second female swimmer at the time to sweep an event all four years; won seven individual state high school titles; swam four years at UGA, winning an NCAA team title in 2005
· Family: Single